Counting down to Christmas is always so much fun.. especially for kids. And an Advent Calendar really helps to make that lead-up time to Christmas more tangible, more comprehensible. It also means that you don't have to answer the ongoing question, "How long until Christmas? When can we unwrap all the presents?"
Why use an Advent calendar?
Sure, an advent calendar looks great as part of your festive decorations as you gradually add, day by day, to the finished calendar. It can add to the Christmas fun. It can be used to keep the focus of Christmas on the birth of the Saviour. And, depending on your choice of calendar, it can help your kids focus on the joy of giving and serving others, too.
What do I need to consider when choosing an advent calendar?
Well, there are plenty of commercially prepared advent calendars. Some would make lovely gift ideas for friends or family. Some commercially prepared advent calendars present small gifts for each day leading up to Christmas. Some are simple thin boxes with perforated windows with a hidden recess for a small chocolate for each day leading up to Christmas. Others are books with windows or flaps to reveal something of the nativity story as Christmas approaches.
Create a family tradition- your own advent calendar
An advent calendar is even more meaningful if you can make it yourself and personalise it as a family legacy. The treats and activities created for and added to your advent calendar can revolve around the interests, activities and favourite choices of your family.
And you can create variations for each year.
So, here are a number of such suggestions listed below that you might like to consider.
The Dainty Bauble Advent Calendar (find the link for this advent calendar below) is easy to print and create. Use the back of the decoration to either: a. write a Scripture verse on the reverse b.include a fun activity c. provide instructions or clues to find a hidden treat or d. include all ideas.
You might decide to just attach a small wrapped chocolate or treat to the reverse of the decoration. Or you may keep it simple and glue a second copy of the decoration to the reverse for extra strength and durability.
However you decide to personalise it, this advent calendar combines the elegance of the past with the energy and minimalism of the future. It's sure to become a family treasure.
What you'll need:
*Download and print the files for the 25 decorations. (Print onto a good quality card. You might also want to consider a good parchment or linen textured card.)
*silver cording for the hanger and perhaps paper clips.
* double-sided tape and normal tape.
*small Christmas tree that will look attractive on the table or side table.
1. Download, print and cut out each of the 25 advent calendar decorations. Use a good quality card and it looks even better if it has a light texture. Print and cut out a second copy if you intend to back each decoration with its twin. It means that it looks great even if the wind blows the decoration to reveal the back. Leave the back blank if you intend writing something on the back or attaching a small treat.
2. Cut a hole in each tab and thread a small piece of silver cord through the hole as the hanger.
3. If you prefer to have a hanger that's a big more substantial (especially if your kids will be hanging the decorations) you might like to use a paper clip for each decoration. Just tape the paper clip on the back with the loop just visible above the rim of the decoration.
Use a second copy of the decoration and attach on the back to cover the taped paper clip. I used double-sided tape. it's just a bit neater. Sometimes glue can cause the card to slightly buckle. Now slip a piece of thin cord through the loop of the paper clip as the hanger.
4. You don't have to add anything else but if you want, you can write a Scripture verse on the back or a clue to where to find the day's treat. You can also decide on a fun activity for each day: sing your favourite Christmas carol, go out for ice-cream, decorate a gingerbread cottage.. If you don't want to add that info on the back of the decoration, just use slips of paper with the activity or treat written on each piece. Pop all of the papers into a small bucket or container. Your kids can reach in and choose one each day to read and complete.
5. Set up your small tabletop Christmas tree and start adding one decoration each day leading up to Christmas Day. I found an inexpensive tree at Kmart for about $10. There was a lovely natural-looking bare tree at another store but it was expensive. I think you could make something similar with a good sized branch set into a pot of plaster of Paris.
So.. that's about it.... pretty simple... and you can check out the summary slideshow below.
Oh... and you can find a FREE pair of Christmas decorations to download and print for your own Christmas tree. Normally, these vintage-inspired decorations would cost $4.95 but they're free for you to download, print and use. See below.
Here are some more ideas that you might like to consider.
FocusontheFamily has produced a free advent calendar, O Holy Night, plus instructions for an advent wreath.
Download and print the calendar. Then highlight each day leading up to Christmas with a character from the nativity story plus a Scripture reading and devotion. Beginning December 3, your advent calendar builds a nativity scene with the daily characters from the advent calendar.
You'll also find a suggestion for creating an advent wreath to remind your family of God's never-ending faithfulness.
Find it here...
Share the love advent calendar: this resource from iMom focuses on building a legacy of giving with your family.
Each day you'll find sweet and selfless ideas to help your kids experience real Christmas joy through the spirit of giving.
Find it here..
This Christmas countdown is also a puzzle and provides a daily treat and activity idea.
Download the printable calendar. Then use the instructions to create an advent calendar that must be assembled day-by-day to reveal a beautiful Christmas decor piece. On the back of each card, you'll hide a treat and an activity.
Find it here...
This advent pack includes 5 weeks of family devotions that focus on a different carol each week.
There are 5 colouring pages that combine to tell the story of Jesus' birth and the advent calendar with fun family activities.
Instructions for creating and illustrated advent wreath with paper candles complete the fun family advent pack.
Find it here...
Help your family discover the Light of Christmas in a new way!
(Yep... affiliate links are included which means, if you buy through me, I get some coffee money ...
though not enough for the raisin toast as well. Full disclosure listed below.)
Every year, Christmas seems to arrive in the stores earlier than you expect. Beautiful Christmas displays appear mid-October, Christmas gift ideas fill store catalogues, and glittering ornaments are hung in the specially created Christmas-theme areas.
And that's fine... although I never seem ready for Christmas despite the early reminders and displays. But the Christmas proclaimed in the department stores and shopping centres is not the Christmas that's important to me. And it's not the legacy of Christmas that, by and large, I want for my family. It doesn't reflect the humble stable of the Saviour's birth or the gift of that first Christmas.
The store-bought Christmas is filled with music and joy and fun and feasting and unwrapping endless gifts. I want to help my family unwrap the real joy of Christmas. And I believe that families, like mine, can hear the Christmas story in a new way using creative family-focused devotions.
So I looked at just five such devotional resources and you can check them out, too, below:
So.. first up..
1. All the Colours of Christmas Advent Calendar
Focus on th Family has produced a beautiful Advent colouring and devotional book. It will help you focus on the anticipation, preparation and celebration of Jesus' birth.
The ongoing enthusiasm for colouring by all ages means the your whole family can be involved.
You'll find beautifully detailed colouring pages with peel-and-stick ornaments, 28 days of faith-filled activities, Scripture readings and an Advent calendar Christmas tree. (You can find a free Advent calendar, too.)
All the Colours of Christmas Advent Calendar.
2. All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Colour your Way to Christmas
Yes... this is another colouring devotional for Christmas. This publication is by Nancy Guthrie. It includes bonus activities, discussion starters, and kid-friendly colouring pages- Christmas ornaments and decorations.
All Is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas
3. Made by Me Nativity
This kit starts by making a great nativity keepsake set. It's included in the kit. But there's so much more...
There are gifts to make and give to friends, family and neighbours. Other faith-building activity suggestions are included: field trips, a Christmas movie makeover and other fun!
And yes, there's more...
Simple kitchen-based mission ideas (cookies, nut baskets, Christmas morning mix) will get your kids up and serving others and discovering Jesus.
Made by Me Nativity
4. Christmas Movie Night Kit for Families
Host a kid-friendly Christmas family night with the Christmas Movie Night Kit.
You'll find a read aloud picture book, activities, puzzles and games. The animated Story of Christmas dvd includes sing-along videos of Christmas carols and behind-the-scenes production footage.
Celebrate the real meaning of Christmas with this creative Christmas kit.
Christmas Movie Night Kit for Families
5. Advent Journey Colouring Posters
The birth of the Saviour on that first Christmas was news that was shared. This is a big part of the Advent Journey Colouring Posters, too, sharing the Christmas story with friends, family and the community through colouring.
The posters are big.. supersize. Four of the posters measure 3' x 2' and the other two are even bigger- 6' x 2'. So they are wonderful to colour together in groups. It also offers plenty of opportunities to talk and share together while colouring.
Using these posters requires some out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to using them. Sure, you can use them for children's ministry groups or teen groups. You can take them to nursing homes to colour in together. Use them following your Sunday services for your church family to colour and enjoy while having morning tea. Schools may wish to use them. Your family might invite friends over for a colouring evening. There is also an accompanying Advent Journey Devotional Guide. So start thinking now... how will you use these wonderful resources for sharing the Christmas story?
Oh.. and the finished posters make beautiful display posters, perfect decorations for large walls, hallways and even stage areas.
Advent Journey Colouring Posters
Take time to explore the real meaning of Christmas with your family with these creative resources. Explore the events surrounding the first Christmas and learn how this season can bring us hope, love, joy and peace.
Disclosure: At Grandma's Place is committed to high standards of integrity and quality. I do not promote any brand I do not believe meets these standards, and I only promote brands I would purchase myself. If I don't love it, and don't think you'll love it, it won't appear on my blog.
Family life is so unpredictable, isn't it?
My granddaughters were visiting for the week and we'd enjoyed a great day at the beach. Dinner plates were piled in the sink and I'd just finished reading the next exciting chapter of The Pet that Never Was. Koti had headed to the bathroom for the final time for the evening, I hoped, when I heard her frightened call..
I raced to the bathroom and found her crouched on the floor, a fountain of water spouting skywards from the tap. There were some frantic moments, let me tell you, as we tried to stem the flood.
When, finally, calm was restored and I settled the girls again for bed Koti was still stressed and upset.
"It was all my fault, Nannie," she sobbed.
"That's not true, honey. It could have happened to anyone."
"Yes, but it happened to me!" I talked with her for some time and told her I was very proud of her.
I reminded her of how calm and helpful she had been. But she was still upset.
So... I smiled and told her how thankful I was that she had run so fast to get Jacob, her cousin. He had arrived like a hurricane with a big armload of towels and had jumped in to help. I laughed and reminded her how the water had sprayed up to the ceiling and then splashed on his head. He had looked so surprised.... and so wet! She smiled, too. And then she mentioned something else that had happened.. something that was funny now, in retrospect. Soon she relaxed and we were laughing and talking about our wet adventure.
The importance of laughter
'Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.' - Bob Newhart
Laughter has the ability to brighten your mood, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress levels, boost your immune system and so much more. Plus, laughter causes your brain to produce more endorphins, which are neuro-transmitters that ease pain.
Certainly, one of God's most precious gifts is the gift of laughter.
'A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.'– Proverbs 17:22, NIV
Dr Caroline Leaf states, 'Having fun is one of the most powerful antidotes to stress you will ever find. And it's free.'
And you can embrace the gift of laughter with your family when you…
Watch funny videos.
Use a website like YouTube or GodTube to find funny videos. You may want to look up search phrases like ‘babies laughing’ or ‘puppies playing’.
If you like comedians, look up Ken Davis, Tim Hawkins or Bob Smiley. These are Christian comedians that keep their routines clean and family-friendly.
Put on a funny song and dance.
Don’t be afraid to do your biggest, silliest dance. Your kids will love to join you.
Some songs that will make you want to dance along include Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, Happy by Pharrell Williams, Something Just Like This by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay.
Let your inner kid out.
Do something that reminds you of being a kid. Run through a sprinkler, splash in a puddle, jump in a pile of leaves, or build a snowman. And your own kids will love doing it with you!
Create some amazing family memories. Enjoy some simple moments that matter. Include laughter in your daily life and make it a family priority.
This updated article 'Creating a New Christmas tradition' was previously published November, 2014.
"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time." -- Laura Ingalls Wilder
Christmas, for most families, is a time of family traditions.
What Christmas traditions does your family hold to and treasure?
When my children were young, our Christmas traditions involved bright Christmas carols playing while decorating the tree, setting up the nativity scene, the advent calendar activities and daily Bible readings, the train trip to the city to view the department stores' animated displays, Christmas in Story & Song at our church and more.
Yes, it was a busy time but, in many ways, it was simple and unhurried. And the emphasis was definitely on the birth of the Saviour.
But times have changed and my kids are grown.
Fun Family Christmas Traditions
Now, as a grandparent, the traditions of Christmas are just a bit quieter. Maybe you're the same. Maybe you're looking forward to celebrating Christmas with a bevy of grandchildren. Hey, there's no reason why your time with your grandkids now can't be every bit as memorable and meaningful as when life was bursting at the seams with Christmas excitement and activity.
But how? What can I do?
But I guess you're wondering how, amongst all the frenetic activity of Christmas can you, as a grandparent, create a family tradition that will emphasise the real message of Christmas?
I was asking myself the same question when I happened to watch the latest clip from the SkitGuys...You can watch it below or via the link: see here.
The Search for the Saviour
The idea is simple: hide the Baby Jesus from your nativity scene and create a set of clues to help your grandchildren find the Saviour. Tailor your clues to the age of your grandchildren. If they're quite small, draw pictures with hints of where to look. Add some simple directional signs- large cards with printed arrows or footprints. Provide more cryptic clues for older kids or use Scripture verses for added levels of difficulty.
But, don't stop there...
Read the Christmas story together
Once your grandkids have found the Saviour, read one of the many wonderful storybooks of the Christmas story. Here's a couple of suggestions with links to where you can find them.
* Read Aloud Bible Stories Vol 3. Award-winning publication for young children filled with simple stories with big illustrations.
*The Jesus Storybook Bible.... where every story whispers His name.
*Jed And Roy McCoy.. One of the Lost Sheep series. A Bible storybook that the whole family will enjoy.
* If you're Missing Baby Jesus.. A true story that will unwrap the warmth of the real meaning of
Also, check out the review of Friends with God StoryBible. I think you and your grandkids will enjoy it.
You may be wondering about other tradition-building Christmas fun
Well, how about
There are so many other fun family ideas for building Christmas traditions.
If you're looking for other ideas, download and use this Christmas activity checklist.
Begin a new tradition this year with your grandkids that is not only fun, but places the focus on the real meaning of the festive season.
If you're looking for even more ideas, download and use this Christmas activity checklist to make more moments that matter for your family.
'Where flowers bloom so does hope.' - Ladybird Johnson
I remember, as a child, being sent out into the garden to find a flower or two for our kitchen table. We had a large garden and there was usually an hibiscus, perhaps some frangipani or, even better, a rose. The flowers generally needed replacing every couple of days since neither frangipani nor hibiscus are long-living. But I loved to search for a bright blossoms.
It added such a cheerful accent to the kitchen table. The whole day seemed brighter.
Brighten your home and create a positive mood at the same time
One of the easiest ways to brighten up your home is by decorating with flowers. If you have a garden, then you might consider planting flowers that you can cut and bring indoors. By planting flowers that bloom all season long you can easily decorate with them until the cold hits in autumn.
Not only do flowers look bright and cheerful, they have been found to have a positive effect on people's moods. One study (Rutgers, University of New Jersey) found that flowers produce both an immediate and long term uplift in mood- happiness, less depression, higher sense of life satisfaction.
Further studies found that those who dined at restaurants where fresh flowers decorated the tables seemed in better moods. An increase in cognitive performance has been observed in offices with flowers and plants. The bright blooms seem to chase away anxieties and the blues.
Another behavioral research study conducted by Nancy Etcoff, found that... 'the morning blahs, it turns out, is a real phenomenon'. The study also found that those who began their day with positive moods – happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example – continued to be cheerful and positive through most of the day. Etcoff adds, “Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”
What better way, then, to introduce a quality, cheerful tone and ambiance to your homelife than with a simple bouquet of flowers. Here's how.....
Flower arrangement tips and ideas for beginners
*Before you begin, trim on the diagonal the stems of your flowers before arranging them. It will allow the flowers to drink up plenty of water. (If your roses are a bit limp, trim the stems and plunge into a deep bucket of water up to their heads and even over. Some flowers, like roses, will absorb water through their petals.)
*Remove any leaves that will be below the water line. This will prevent the leaves rotting.
*If you're using flowers with long stems in a tall vase, ensure that the container has a heavy base. (You don't want it toppling over.) The finished height of the arrangement should be roughly 1 1/2 times the height of the container.
*As a rule of thumb, use an odd number of main flowers in your arrangement.. it's not so important for smaller, filler flowers. This will result in an arrangement that looks balanced, more appealing to the eye.
*And your flower arrangements don't have to be huge. A lovely bowl of flowers can be just as pleasing as a large vase arrangement.
*Don't cut your stems of flowers and foliage too long. Consider the height of your arrangement.
*Yes, foliage is important. But you can use what you find in your garden. Begin with small leaved greenery until you become more confident. Simple asparagus fern, spinning gum or callistemon work well and even herbs like rosemary would be fine.
*Use the containers you already own.. you can create some truly beautiful arrangements in a teacup.
Small bowls work well as do teapots, jugs, small watering cans or even large shells.
If you're using a container with not much height, it will probably be best to use some florist foam (Oasis.) Just cut off a piece to fit your container, soak for about 15 minutes. Then push it firmly into your container. Arrange your flowers by pushing them firmly into the florist foam. You will find that you can cut the stems of your flowers and foliage a little shorter when using the foam since you push the stems roughly halfway into the foam to secure in place.
Use flowers from your garden
Decorating with flowers doesn’t have to be expensive. Try looking around your garden and use what you see growing. You don't need a lot of flowers to make a beautiful home accent. For example, do you grow agapanthus? Pick one stem and add it to a container so that the bloom forms a dome at the top of your container. Now, pop some foliage stems and a couple of other flowers between the agapanthus flowerlets and you're done.. easy.
Begin now and plant some flowers that you can use later in your home arrangements. Download the FREE guide to easy to grow and easy to use flowers for arrangements.
why not try to involve your kids and encourage them to help out in your flower garden? They'll love to water the growing plants and pick the flowers as they bloom. You can even grow flowers that kids can eat. Make smoothies for your kids and they can sprinkle the top with nuts, seeds, muesli and ..... petals. (Violas, nasturtium, calendula and rose petals to name just a few..)
Don't forget to add some foliage
To add some flare to your floral arrangements don’t forget to use some of the leaves that grow with your flowers.
Hosta leaves help add a wonderful touch of green to indoor flower arrangements too. You probably have a variety of grasses growing in your garden and these can be used to make your dinner settings stand out. Simply use a grass such as maiden grass of about 20cm long and tie around your cutlery and fasten with a knot. To add color to your setting pick a small handful of pansies or daises and tie them into a bouquet as well.
Maiden grass dries extremely well and will keep for up to one year so you can easily reuse them over and over again. If you find the grass is getting a little brittle then spray very lightly with a little hair gel. Works wonderfully!
Creating Bouquet Arrangements
Top floral designers are experimenting with creating tiered bouquets for the home and you can easily accomplish this, too.
All you need for your tiered bouquet are two glass bowls which can be stacked on top of each other.
Then simply fill with a mixture of small and large seasonal flowers. For example, in the spring you can mix pansies and nemesia or forget-me-nots and use larger flowers such as columbine and violas. In the sample one above, I used button chrysanthemums and baby's breath.
First start by stacking your pedestal bowl on top of the larger one and then add water to both bowls. Use smaller blossoms for the base of the bowls and press the stems into the water. Then take your larger blossoms and cut the stems so they fit inside the bowl, simply insert these blossoms throughout your flower bouquet.
If you don’t have a pedestal-type bowl you can use small individual glass bowls and place them around your home. If you are having dinner guests, you could place small flower arrangements at their place setting.
Other simple ideas
Peonies, hibiscus or frangipani look wonderful floating in a small bowl of water. To keep the peony above the water, place a small ball of bubble wrap underneath it for support. Use grasses or leaves to add a touch of green to the bowl.
Check out some of the other simple floral arrangement ideas below.
'Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers.
Download this FREE guide to find easy-to-grow flowers for your own garden and easy-to-arrange flowers and start creating a cheerful, warm home atmosphere.
I remember Christmas when I was young.
There was so much cleaning, preparation and cooking, and cooking... and more cooking! We were all involved in some way whether it was cutting up the dried fruit, stirring the Christmas cake or pudding mixture or rolling out the sweet pastry for the tarts and fruit mince pies.
And afterwards, somehow or other, we all managed to scamper outside clutching tasty bits of pastry, fruit, biscuit or cake mix.
I loved watching the batches of beautiful Christmas cookies (we call them biscuits in Australia) cooling on trays before being stored in large glass jars or packed between layers of greaseproof paper in shiny, bright tins as gifts.
There were Snickerdoodles, Peppermint Chocolate Slice, Shortbreads, Meringue Kisses, Iced Vo-vos, Melting Moments and Florentines.
And although I'd love to recreate similar memories today for my children and grandkids- the same delicious smells and mouth-watering flavours- I just don't have time.
But maybe, I can create memories that are every bit as sweet for my grandkids without spending hours in the kitchen. And you can, too.
So here's my simple version of Christmas cookies that will take less than 15 minutes to make. And... if my grandson is anything to go by, you'll have them coming back for more.
Here's what you'll need:
* 1 cup of chocolate melts (Use natural chocolate melts if you're looking for a healthy alternative and there are even gluten-free versions.)
* 1 pack of mini salted pretzels (You won't need to use all of the pretzels.)
* 1 pack of mini gingerbread men (If you need a healthier alternative, there is a brand made with wholegrains and sweetened with grape juice rather than sugar.)
* 1 pack of shredded coconut (Again, you won't need the whole pack.)
* ! pack of Christmas M&Ms- the ones with green and red M&Ms
You'll also need a biscuit tray lined with baking paper.
1. Melt the chocolate. (I just popped a microwave-safe bowl with the melts in the microwave 30-40 sec but you may prefer to melt it gently by standing the container of melts over a bowl of hot water and stirring until melted.)
2. Make small circles of chocolate on the tray of baking paper using teaspoonfuls of melted chocolate.
3. Gently push a couple of pretzels, a gingerbread man and a few M&Ms in each chocolate circle.
4. Sprinkle with shredded coconut.
5. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.
6. Gently remove from the tray and arrange on small Christmas plates or platters.
And that's it! Easy! In fact, your kids or grandkids would probably like to help you make these. So go ahead and enjoy some family fun and make some wonderful Christmas memories.
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.